Journalist detained for report on Lagos businessman

Operatives of the Nigerian Police Force from the Zone 2 Command, Lagos State, have arrested a journalist and publisher of the News Platform, Precious Eze.

The publisher of the online newspaper was reportedly picked up by policemen at his Gbagada, Lagos, home on May 27, 2024.

According to a statement by the journalist’s colleagues, Eze’s arrest was allegedly instigated by a complaint from a prominent businessman and politician.

The statement added that Eze’s colleagues, under the umbrella of the Society of Digital Newspaper Owners of Nigeria, learned of his arrest after one week of being detained, and attempts to secure his release on bail proved abortive.

According to them, Eze was arraigned on Thursday, May 30, before the Ebute Meta Magistrate Court to secure a remand order, which resulted in a judicial rebuke of the police’s action as the magistrate struck out the case, deeming it without merit and affirming that Eze had no case to answer.

They claimed that rather than grant Eze’s immediate release, the police returned him to custody and re-arraigned him before another magistrate on Friday, May 31, with the case adjourned to a future date in June.

The statement read, “This sequence of events is not just a personal ordeal for Precious Eze but a glaring assault on press freedom in Nigeria.

“The actions of the police, acting seemingly under the influence of a powerful individual, represent a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence the press.

“This undermines the very foundations of a democratic society, where journalists must be able to report freely and hold those in power accountable without fear of retribution.

“The Nigerian Constitution (1999), the Evidence Act (2011), and the ethical codes of the Nigerian Press Council Act (1992) are clear in their support for journalistic freedom and the protection of sources.

“The prolonged detention and legal harassment of Precious Eze stand in stark contrast to these protections and serve as a chilling reminder of the vulnerabilities journalists face in Nigeria.

“As this case unfolds, it is imperative for the Nigerian judiciary to uphold the principles of justice and press freedom.

“The international community, press freedom advocates, and civil society must also remain vigilant and vocal in their support for Eze and all journalists facing similar threats.

“The detention of Precious Eze is not just an isolated incident; it is a bellwether of the broader struggle for freedom of expression in Nigeria.

“It is a call to action to safeguard the rights of journalists and, by extension, the right of the public to be informed.”

When contacted, the Zone 2 Police Command’s spokesperson, Ayuba Umma, neither confirmed nor denied the arrest.

The police spokesperson said, “I will find out from the investigation team and get back to you.”

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